Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Review of Gregory Sholette's "Dark Matter" - corrected version
Molly Hankwitz on Thu, 26 Sep 2013 10:44:43 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Review of Gregory Sholette's "Dark Matter" - corrected version

reposting this text again because i loved this book so much, and the
formatting change left too many question marks.
thank you for your patience...


Dark Matter by Gregory Sholette: Mass Artistic Resistance to the
of Everyday Life

By Molly Hankwitz

Finally, a history of collective precarity from a politicized
artist.Author/writer, Gregory Sholette, in the final paragraph of
"Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture", at
last clarifies the frequently cited metaphor of "zombies" and enormous
digital casts, which the likes of Annalee Newitz have been preoccupied
with in terms of popular culture and most noticeably, the big budget
extravaganza digital films of recent decades. He writes:

We go on picking the rags, but every now and again, this other social
[non] productivity appears to mobilize its own redundancy, seems to
acknowledge that it is indeed just so much surplus---talent, labor,
subjectivity, even sheer physical-genetic materiality, and in so
doing frees itself from even attempting to be usefully productive for
capitalism, though all the while identifying itself with a far larger
ocean of "dark matter", that ungainly surfeit of seemingly useless
actors and activity that the market views as waste, or perhaps at best
as a raw, interchangeable resource for biometric information and crowd
sourcing. The archive has split open. We are its dead capital. It is
the dawn of the dead."

This blatant appeal to the use-value of our necrophilia, artistic
waste, the products of our labor and time, runs throughout an
historical text, alternately conscious of its own limitations and
brilliantly pervasive in its political critique and arts research.
Sholette devotes himself to describing the animation of a diverse
selection of contemporary artists collectives and collective
projects, American, European, South American, and "other", for whom
relationships as cultural workers to the neo-liberal art world in
recent decades of the 21st century has been a central concern.

Amidst this history are crisp critical frameworks for understanding
the art and its positioning against what he calls "enterprise culture"
or the current era of marked precarity in which artists are force to
live, which is also marked by "enforced creativity" imposed on all
forms of labor.

Sholette, a New York-based artist, writer, and founding member of
Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D: 1980-1988), and
REPOhistory (1989-2000)[a collective I had some engagement with in
1989] is as engaged a political critic as he is an artist/activist.
"Dark Matter" is a considerable art and activist history contributing
an elegant read to what is already in print, while paying homage to
such luminaries as Lucy Lippard and Martha Rosler, lurching forward
afresh in its sharp critique of the neo-liberalization of daily life,
and celebrating collective action in the "art world."

Published history around activist/politicized art generally falls into
two distinct camps, books on specific "identity politics" art from
feminists, gays, latino, "etcetera" artists---David Roman's "Acts
of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS", for instance,
"Street Art San Francisco-Mission Muralismo" by Annice Jacoby, for
another; and movement-oriented art books highlighting one "outsider"
art forms --graffiti, stencil art, Occupy art, for instance, which
bracket a specific local/global analysis, or art, comix, photography,
music and poetry "output" for a single movement. Then there are the
publications which recuperate "material" archives: posters, papers,
'zines, and self-made/artists' publications from collectives and
groups, as political art history. George Kaplan's newly edited book,
"Power to the People!" is one recent manifestation of this catalog

Both publishing directions offer significant breadth of understanding
for radical culture and political art. What Sholette's book has
to offer as a companion to these kinds of texts,however, is his
politics, which looks at explicitly at collectivized art in the
"enterprise culture" framing this within in discourse on surplus labor
and "the invisible mass" --and privileging the radical economy behind
interventionist works as the basis of an era of art making outside the
mainstream. In other words, this book is about radical art now; not
about recuperated art, and it's about strains of art practice which
would elsewise go unnoticed, particularly in the broad, totality of
culture on which the author writes.

On one level "Dark Matter" is a critique of the "clipping out" of
particular activist art, for curatorial shows, an act that removes
the work from its labor, and reduces it to a mere "institutional"
appropriation. His account of "counter-institutional" interventions
as political art production is, by contrast, a finely tuned account.
Sholette makes the sophisticated argument that precarity, while not
desired, is its own best motivator; that useless labor, cast out and
invisiblized as a byproduct of neoliberal capital, develops its own
economy from which to persist, linking methods in making art as social
production to itself as product of its own circumstances, much as the
aesthetics of Arte Povera, or feminist rejection of the art history
which presumed male-dominated creation, materials and subjectivities
of high art, made visible the politics of art processes, hierarchies,
and so on.

Sholette's ideas are fresh, intelligent, particular, and funny. He
asserts what he earlier investigated in the book, "Radical Social
Production and the Missing Mass of the Contemporary Art World"(Pluto
Press UK, 2009) in which he examined the "social production" of art
and transitions from "modernity" (which presupposed public spheres and
"masses") to contemporary culture. His objective there was to locate
the mass, strategically and politically and to name its purpose in the
capitalist and artistic imaginary.

In "Dark Matter", he looks again at 'invisible' (or the missing)
contemporary artistic work amidst today's neo-liberal appropriations
culture where the networked machine of neo-liberalism sucks up
everything up for its own use. This is a central and important
visualization of the current ground upon which politicized art
stands, especially in light of widespread NSA surveillance. As
"dark matter" in contrast to that upon which light is shed, it has
a certain material power. The "missing mass" imaginary of networked
communications, creative industries, and immaterial culture, is thus
reassembled as a perceptible class of cultural workers and this is
fantastic, like James Bridle's corollary imagery of virtual subjects
wandering in as yet unbuilt architecture in his explication of New
Aesthetics. Sholette points, in this assertion, to the manner by which
the white electronic computerized screen blinds us to the material;
and forces imaginaries upon us. This has not been stated so well by
any other writer.

"A Users Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life" (with
Nato Thompson for MassMoCA/MIT Press, 2004, 2006, 2008), as well as
a special issue of the journal Third Text co-edited with theorist
Gene Ray on the theme "Whither Tactical Media" also with or by
Sholette deal with some of these ideas as well. "Dark Matter" is
a comprehensive guidebook to collectivized, politicized art in
contemporary times.




molly hankwitz, phd:::artist:::curator:::writer

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org